It must be marvellous to inhabit whichever magical, elysian land Elie Saab lives in. Look at his latest Spring/Summer 2012 collection - in fact, look at any of Saab's shows over the past decade or so. Their seasonal variance is little to none. The worries of the real world are relegated to the sidelines - it may be cold and raining outside, but Saab's clothes inhabit a perpetual summer, necessitating nothing more than a few acres of filmy embroidered gauze in bon-bon shades floating about the body. Even the couture staple of a thick pelt (or twelve) is eschewed on Saab's golden mile of catwalk, when the sun never seems to set.
Maybe that isn't such a screwball notion: Saab's customers are predominantly Middle Eastern, and you don't get much seasonal variance in Abu Dhabi. In fact, a never-ending, light-bathed summertime is the climate of the rich and powerful across the world. Saab is outfitting for the climate of the couture clientele. Its an odd thing to say, but that thought brings a sobering realism to what Saab offers season in and season out, the highly-decorated, delicately-coloured silken ballgowns with which his name immediately resonates.
Nevertheless, that doesn't necessarily make for great fashion. As clothing, Saab's collection was fine - the dresses were always pretty, even beautiful, scattered with three-dimensional iridescent tulle blooms in a rainbow of hothouse shades. Sometimes those blooms were hand-painted across the dresses, other times the beading ran riot, crosshatching trellis behind nosegays on knee-length summer frocks. Those sound like the things little girls' dreams are made of - but only the terribly well-behaved little girls. That is the main issue with Elie Saab's fashion: it's conservative, bordering on conventional. And however beautiful the final result is, the limits to Saab's creativity means his fashion doesn't really cut it in Parisian haute couture's premier league.